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Connecting Beyond the Check: Building Trust with Grantee Partners

For your convenience, you can download the webinar slides here.

Building trust with grantees is a process that goes far beyond writing a check. It takes intention and thoughtful connection. A panel of private funders share stories about unique ways they are bringing community members into the grantmaking process and building better relationships with their nonprofit partners.

From community involvement to focus groups to centering racial equity in their granting work, these funders are tackling difficult challenges with small changes while working within the constraints of their “traditional” funder role. Instead of saying, “we can’t change because we have to answer to our board,” they’re saying, “we can make small, creative changes when we are patient and focus on the outcomes the board expects instead of the things we’ve always done.”

Learn how these funders piloted new ways of doing things while effectively bringing their boards along, including:

  • Doing away with written applications in favor of a video call to reduce the applicant burden
  • Implementing declination grants of up to $2,500 for applicants who don’t receive funding
  • Bringing community members onto grant committees to represent populations served
  • Understanding how to move slowly but with intention
  • And, more!


Danyelle O’Hara | Community Relationship Officer, Mortenson Family Foundation

Ambar Hanson | Community Relationship Officer – Philanthropy, Mortenson Family Foundation

Karyn McKelvey | Grants and Program Manager, Laird Norton Family Foundation

About the Author

Based in Portland, Maine, Meredith started her career in the nonprofit world, spending time in theatre stage management, customer service, legal aid support, and qualitative research. This work inspired her interest in the philanthropic sector, eventually connecting her to grants management at Dietel and Partners, where she developed her philanthropic knowledge during her five-year tenure. Meredith joined the team at Foundant Technologies as a Client Success Manager, training and consulting with funders, with an emphasis on arts and humanities funders and philanthropic providers. Meredith is passionate about helping clients find ways to improve their workflows and is a member of Foundant’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (JEDI) team. Areas of expertise: grant best practices, trust-based philanthropy, operationalizing values and equity in processes, philanthropy advisory services, and arts and humanities funders.

Profile Photo of Meredith Li Morgan